On Saturday, 14 January 2017 the Diocesan Administrator of Clogher Diocese, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness and Most Rev Liam MacDaid, Bishop-Emeritus of Clogher, travelled to Rome with all of the Irish Bishops and the diocesan administrators of those diocese that are currently not being led by a bishop. The visit is known as a pilgrimage Ad Limina Apostolorum – “to the threshold of the Apostles”, a reference to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul that all bishops are required to make at regular intervals.
The pilgrimage will last until 25 January. It consists of prayer and a series of meetings with staff of the various departments of the Roman Curia in the Holy See and a meeting with Pope Francis. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to strengthen the communion of the bishops with the universal Church and with the successor of St Peter, Pope Francis.
Prior to the Ad Limina visit each bishop had to submit a report to the Holy See on the situation of the Church in his diocese, including an overview under a wide variety of headings together with facts and figures from each parish. The report also outlined the ongoing work of the diocese, relations with other Christian churches, with civil society and public authorities and the challenges facing the Church locally. All of these reports are synthesised by the various departments and a summary is sent to the Pope, allowing him to acquaint himself with the local situation before he meets the Bishop and Administrator. The Holy Father will also (on Friday 20 January) address the Irish bishops and administrators as a group.
Among the many departments or curial offices that Monsignor McGuinness and Bishop MacDaid will visit as part of the discussions on the Clogher report will be the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Clergy, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (Safeguarding), the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Secretariat for Communications. During these meetings, the Irish bishops will discuss with Holy See officials the situation of the Church in their respective dioceses and in Ireland generally, including issues of concern. They will use the opportunity to ask questions, to seek information and furnish clarifications from their reports.
As part of the Ad Limina visit, the Irish bishops will concelebrate Mass at the Pontifical Irish College (founded in 1628 and today the last functioning Irish college on the continent of Europe). They will also visit the four main papal basilicas in Rome. They will concelebrate Mass at the tomb of St Peter (on Monday 16 January), in the Basilica of St John Lateran, the Pope’s Cathedral as Bishop of Rome (on Wednesday 16 January), at the tomb of St Paul in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls (on Friday 20 January) and in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (on Saturday 21 January).